A recent Gartner survey has set the ball rolling among marketers when it comes to the most important marketing factors in the (near) future.
The survey states that are almost 89% of the companies will compete with others on the basis of customer experience alone by the year 2016.
This figure stood at just 36%, 4 years ago (Source Gartner).
Marketing is changing.
In simple terms, the marketing paradigm is changing fast and companies that realize this and invest in their customer experience capabilities will leap ahead of their competitors and will be much more successful than their peers.
There was a time when marketing was all about brand management. Companies preferred to spend most of their marketing budget on branding and did not pay attention to other aspects of marketing.
However, things have changed with the emergence of Internet as everybody has a portable computer in their pocket these days.
A Vast Ocean.
Various social media platforms have huge reach these days and new social media platforms are emerging regularly. For instance, Facebook has a membership of over 1.1 billion globally. Similarly, Twitter has over 300 million active users and Snapchat has over 100 million active members.
Due to the emergence of the social media websites, news spread fast these days and bad news goes viral even faster. This is the reason that most of the marketers, executives and businesses believe that customer experience is the future of marketing.
The Customer Focus.
While there has been always talk about big data that includes social, content and mobile, being the next big step in marketing but all of these elements are truly a way to enrich customer experience.
Customers has always been King but progressive businesses are changing various aspects of their business from organizational structure to processes to strategies to culture.
These aspects are being redesigned to keep the customer in the center.
Yes, The Customer Experience.
Success of a business depends a lot on the way customers are treated especially when each customer has the potential to make his or her story heard by thousands by sharing it on various social media platforms.
Customer spending is increasingly driven by customer experiences instead of branding messages. Brand is important but customer experience is more important.
Here is a list of seven reasons why customer experience trumps brand experience.
#1 – Customer Experience Is Tangible
One of the main things that separate customer experience from brand experience is that customer experience is tangible whereas brand messages are not.
While customers may feel strongly about a brand, their loyalty is decided by their experience in the store or while dealing with customer service.
Success With Apple.
For instance, one of the main reasons of the success of Apple even though its products are up to three times as costly as compared to other products is that they pay a lot of attention to customer experience.
In other terms, the success of Apple shows that customers are willing to pay good premium for excellent experience and customer service.
While customers are less likely to share their positive branding messages from companies on their social media profiles, they are more likely to share positive experiences with their friends and followers on social media.
#2 – Customer Experience Is Personal and Human
While branding is important, a brand is still not a real person.
Marketers mostly focus on various branding elements such as colors, training, language and aesthetics when it comes to branding. However, if the actual customer experience does not match the experience promised by the brand image, it can quickly backfire.
It’s not difficult to feel the disconnect between the promise made by the brand and the actual delivery at the store.
In other words, a company’s brochure may say that they are the best service but what actually matters is how a customer experiences and interacts with their service.
In other words, better customer experience is like having a personal conversation with the customers.
It helps in earning their trust and deepening the relationship. Feedback from customers helps businesses in understanding whether they are doing things in the right manner.
#3 – Focus on Customer Experience Leads to Improved Customer Satisfaction
A recent customer service experience survey by McKinsey reports that maximizing the satisfaction of customer journey has the potential to not only increase customer satisfaction by up to 20%.
But it may also increase revenue by up to 15% while at the same time lowering the cost of servicing customers by up to 20%. (Source McKinsey)
The name of the game here is consistency. In simple terms, businesses need to continually work to offer superior service to their customers at all times and during each interaction.
Each interaction with the customer should be consistent in terms of rules, policies and support mechanism.
#4 – Better Customer Experience Forces Repeat Customers and Enhances Customer Loyalty
There was a time when customer loyalty used to be a thing but things have changed a lot.
There is hyper competition in all the industries and customers do not perceive the switching cost from one brand to another to be too big to prevent them from switching.
In fact, according to one survey, almost 44% of consumers are of the opinion that customer loyalty is dead. (Source Avaya)
However, it is not completely true.
Customer loyalty exists but only when companies pay attention to the customer experience.
Customers are usually devoted to a brand but when they feel that there is no competitive advantage offered by one particular brand over another, another brand can easily wean them away.
Properly executed customer experience can be the biggest point of differentiation from competitors.
Customers today want an experience that exceeds their expectations and impresses them. If they are impressed, customers will want to continue doing business with a brand.
Better customer experience is the unique value offered by a business that cannot be matched by a competitor.
Customer experience is one of the best ways to increase retention and loyalty. Better customer experience derives repeat purchases.
#5 – Better Customer Experience Gives a Competitive Advantage
Many analysts are of the opinion that the only metric that offers a sustainable competitive advantage over the long term is customer experience.
It is one of the best ways to differentiate from competitors.
While a business can always attract new customers and retain existing ones by offering lowest prices, a business cannot run sustain by continuously offering lower prices.
For instance, in the world of retail, Amazon started by offering lower prices in the beginning.
However, if you ask a majority of the customers of Amazon, they will agree that they chose to buy from Amazon due to superior customer experience.
There are no lines on the website and more often than not, Amazon meets their shipping predictions.
Customers always expect to receive their products within two days and Amazon delivers most of the times. In fact, they go out of their way to ensure deliveries in time during the holidays.
This is what has helped Amazon in weaning away customers from a brick and mortar stores.
It won’t be wrong to say that better customer experience has given Amazon a huge competitive advantage over its rivals.
The Internet is full of stories where delighted customers have shared their positive experiences with Amazon customer service.
#6 – Customer Experience Directly Impacts Bottom Line
This is the most important thing when it comes to focusing on customer experience as compared to branding.
Many research studies have reported that customers are always willing to spend more money with businesses that offer superior customer experience.
One research study done by CEI states that around 86% of customers are willing to pay more if they get better customer experience.
However, the survey also reported that only 1% of customers felt that the business is able to meet their expectations on consistent basis.
In simple terms, this is a huge opportunity for businesses to get more customers and retain them by improving the customer experience. (Source Forbes)
#7 – Customers Are Much More Powerful Today
The customer today is much more powerful as compared to an average customer a decade ago.
A single customer can bring tens of hundreds of new customers to a business by sharing their customer experience on their social media provides.
It is a well-known fact that the acquisition cost of a referral customer is much less than as compared to a non-referral customer.
It has also been confirmed by research that a referral customer has a higher lifetime value as compared to a non-referral.
Superior customer service has the potential to create big advocates for business.
People naturally tend to share better customer experience as they want their friends and family members to experience superior customer service.
With social media increasing playing an important role in the buying decisions, customer experience has become a big differentiator for businesses.
There was a time when customer experience was seen as a fad. Customer experience is here to stay and a number of case studies have demonstrated the importance focusing on customer experience.
The companies that will embrace customer experience are going to thrive and the companies that fail are going to fade away.
Angry customers are more likely to share their bad experience on the Internet through a tweet, review on Yelp, reviews on a dorm and by commenting on the Facebook page.
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Jon Rognerud and Chaosmap work with Fortune 500 companies, small business and entrepreneurs to create digital traffic strategies that scales up customers, leads and sales. Mr. Rognerud wrote a best-selling book (Buy On Amazon), “The Ultimate Guide To Optimizing Your Website” (Entrepreneur). Connect directly here.